Mike Gallagher, CMF Editorial Correspondent
While Michigan has a long way to go in revamping its struggling educational system, the state has made some positive progress in the past several years and needs to continue to implement impactful programs while strengthening college- and career-ready standards.
Those words of advice came from Kati Haycock, president/CEO of Education Trust who recently spoke to Michigan foundation, government and educational leaders attending “Education Matters: Student Achievement for Life-Long Success” in Lansing.
One of the most positive steps forward for Michigan education, according to Haycock, is the ongoing effort to raise expectations for all students.
“During the past decade, Michigan has been a leading state in making college-prep the default curriculum for all students,” notes Haycock. “In 2006, the Legislature created the Michigan Merit Curriculum which set rigorous expectations students must meet in order to graduate high school.
“In 2010, the Michigan State Board of Education adopted the Common Core State Standards in reading and math for students K-12, aligned to what students need to know and be able to do in college and the 21st century workplace.”
But a minority group of state legislators became an impediment to that forward-moving effort last year by putting the brakes on state funding and implementation of higher student standards, notes the Education Trust leader.
“Thankfully, as a result of the hard work of The Michigan Coalition for High Student Standards (a coalition of more than 130 organizations including Education Trust-Midwest), that funding was restored in October 2013.
“Michigan is now on track to implement assessments aligned to the standards,” she adds. “Parents and educators deserve honest, reliable data on how students are performing and where they need to improve.”
Roadmap To MI Educational Success
Michigan education officials, teachers, legislators and parents need to keep their eye on the prize if they are to realize the same outstanding progress that states such as Tennessee and Massachusetts have achieved in the past several years, advises Haycock.
“The Michigan Department of Education (MDOE) needs to ensure its implementation plans are sound, seek input from key stakeholders and update its master teacher regulations if forward progress is to continue in improving the chances of success for students not only in Detroit, but around the state as well.”
Haycock provided event attendees several “attainable goals” to continue Michigan’s forward movement in educational reform and positive systemic change, echoing findings in The Education Trust-Midwest’s 2014 State of Michigan Education Report entitled: “Stalled To Soaring: Michigan’s Path to Educational Recovery.” They include:
- Ensure that the Michigan Legislature provides continued funding for implementation of college- and career-ready standards and assessments.
- Implement the MDOE’s assessment plan aligned with new standards.
- Resist efforts to weaken standards and graduation requirements.
- Hold schools accountable for implementing graduation requirements and new standards.
Haycock says her continuing message to Michigan lawmakers – as it is for every other state official across the U.S. – is to invest in training on career- and college-ready standards.
“Michigan needs to invest in instructional materials and work with other states to develop supports to raise the level of instruction,” she says.
“Additionally, Michigan needs to invest in high-quality observation training to ensure teacher evaluations are improvement-oriented and that the tools they use are aligned with instructional shifts required to make sure students are college and career ready.
Also, school administrators should be trained to combine data from multiple observations (i.e. state and local measures of student learning and other components) to help formulate final ratings for teachers on their overall competency, ability and success.
Above all, says Haycock, “Do not shortchange or under estimate your young students. Challenge them. Create high expectations and you will see how they meet that challenge. And never give up. Education is the key to success not only for these young people, but for our economy and society as well.”